Monday, November 20, 2017

Subtlety And Character Depth Makes "Resupply" More Than A Generic Bridging Episode!

The Good: Performances, Good character development
The Bad: Somewhat basic plot
The Basics: "Resupply" puts The Punisher and Madani on a collision course over a gun shipment that Homeland Security is looking to intercept!

With The Punisher not being recruited to stop the mystical threat that preoccupied The Defenders (season 1 reviewed here!), the first season of The Punisher was promised to viewers to be a gritty, more reality-based Marvel Cinematic Universe series. So far, by "Resupply," the show has not at all disappointed in that regard. "Resupply" continues to focus on Frank Castle and David Lieberman working to understand one end of a series of war crimes that culminated in the murder of Dinah Madani's partner in Kandahar, while Madani and Sam Stein work to understand the same and solve the murder of Director Wolf. So far in The Punisher, there has been no real supernatural element and the sense of shellshock for many of the military characters forces the viewer to play a guessing game of which one is truly the season's antagonist (though the safe money is on Russo and Rawlins).

"Resupply" picks up after "Kandahar" (reviewed here!), which found Frank Castle and David Lieberman finally teaming up to go after the war criminals on the MICRO video so Castle can get his justice and Lieberman might be able to return to his family.

Lewis Walcott digs a hole in his yard and, essentially, creates a foxhole to sleep in. Castle holds Turk up for weapons and discovers that the arms dealer is remarkably light on firepower at the moment. In an uncharacteristic move, Castle lets Turk live and he sets Lieberman on the task of finding the stolen shipment of heavy weapons. While Madani and Stein prepare to intercept the same weapons, Madani is informed that she is about to be replaced as Director of her section at Homeland Security. Sarah Lieberman calls "Pete" for signatures on an insurance form for her car to get fixed and David holds Castle's weapons search hostage against that.

Hoyle visits Lewis in his hole in the yard and Castle (as Pete) visits Sarah Lieberman. There, he helps Lieberman's daughter fix the garbage disposal and he offers to help out with other things around the house, while David watches remotely. At Anvil, Russo gives a new group of potential recruits a speech about their value, which appeals to Lewis. Stein briefs at Homeland Security, but Madani alters his plans to make it more efficient. When David finds out that Homeland is the buyer for the guns the Greeks are bringing in, Castle commits to getting the weapons. Castle and Lieberman go on their first outing; to pick up cars from an illegal chop shop to use as their getaway in their next mission.

Lewis Walcott is an interesting character to begin "Resupply" with. Walcott is a veteran who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and is part of Curtis Hoyle's therapy group. Walcott has done very little in the prior episodes of The Punisher, save wake up abruptly to take a shot at his own father and get courted by white nationalists at one of Hoyle's meetings. Opening with his personal struggle sets "Resupply" up to potentially be a very different style episode of The Punisher. Lewis Walcott is a pretty distant b-plot in "Resupply," but his arc is part of the compelling aspect of The Punisher; Hoyle advises Russo not to hire Walcott at Anvil and that continues to disenfranchise the former resupply soldier. Walcott is obviously coming unhinged and that seems like it will make him entirely malleable to any villain that comes into his life, which is unfortunate, but plays into the realism of The Punisher.

At the other end of the spectrum is David Lieberman. Lieberman is a tech analyst and he is skilled at his type of sabotage and surveillance. He is not, however, the guy who gets his hands dirty, like Frank Castle. Lieberman is not the hands on guy and that makes him an interesting partner for Castle. Castle needs his skill set, but critisizes his methods, which sets up a realistic tension between them.

"Resupply" is saved from being a banal bridge episode by Madani. Madani is well-characterized as a tactical thinker and she is essentially the midpoint between Castle and Lieberman. She is smart and tactical, but not afraid to get her hands dirty. While the episode's climactic car race could seem like a very generic, masculine adrenaline-rush style showdown, it actually serves to characterize Madani well as Castle's equal as a tactical thinker.

That scene also serves to illustrate that Frank Castle still has a moral core, which is pretty much essential to allowing the viewer to have any sense of empathy with him.

Jon Bernthal, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Amber Rose Revah and Daniel Webber all give good performances in "Resupply." Bernthal continues to illustrate that he has more range for Frank Castle than he was allowed on The Walking Dead (in fact, on The Punisher there are some moments where it seems like he's doing an Andrew Lincoln impression!) and in "Resupply," he manages to convey thoughtfulness and hardness at key moments. Amber Rose Revah does a solid job as Madani continuing to embody the character as professional, quick-thinking and compassionate in a consistent way. Moss-Bachrach uses his facial expressions throughout "Resupply" to play out his character's inner turmoil wonderfully. And Daniel Webber plays Lewis with such credible twitchiness that there's no possible way he's not an amazing actor; if he were actually that unhinged, he'd never be able to remember his lines. His portrayal of a man suffering from PTSD is impressive and unsettling.

"Resupply" is the first episode of The Punisher that actually feels derivative of other Netflix Marvel Television Universe works. The scene between Rafi and Madani is entirely reminiscent of Misty Knight being put in her place by her boss on Luke Cage. "Resupply" is also the first episode that has Frank Castle feeling out a relationship with his new partner in vengeance, David Lieberman. Lieberman forces Castle to work on his terms and Castle relies upon Lieberman for the titular arms resupply.

Ultimately, "Resupply" is a bit simple on the plot front, but the episode is saved from feeling so simple by the complexity of the character dynamics in the episode.

For other Marvel Television Universe Series works with Rob Morgan, please visit my reviews of:
"Mean Right Hook" - The Defenders
"Soliloquy Of Chaos" - Luke Cage
"Code Of The Streets" - Luke Cage
"A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" - Daredevil
"Bang" - Daredevil
"Daredevil" - Daredevil
"The Path Of The Righteous" - Daredevil
"World On Fire" - Daredevil
"Rabbit In A Snowstorm" - Daredevil
"Into The Ring" - Daredevil


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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